Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Bounty of Holiday Gaming Gifts

Throughout my life the December holidays have always provided a host of gaming gifts. Even as a child, before discovering the rich potential of the adventure gaming hobby, we always received some board game or other (as I was reminded by the piles of old game boxes my parents cleaned out of their attic and brought during a recent visit). This year my family was very generous and creative in making it a game-filled holiday.

This year's bounty of holiday gaming goodness.
I fondly recall several holiday presents in my gaming collection from Christmas past. The first year I was into Dungeons & Dragons my brother went down to our local gaming store, the long lost Branchville Hobby, and bought me a Grenadier Wizards Room miniatures boxed set and module A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords (even though I only had A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity and A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade...). A great aunt got me Avalon Hill’s Kingmaker (no doubt with some guidance from my parents) to set me on my path toward wargames. More recently my well-advised in-laws sent me the Star Trek: Attack Wing miniatures game and some extra ships. The holidays also brought game-related materials to fuel my efforts, including reference books, fantasy and sci-fi novels, and inspiring movie soundtracks.

Today Amazon’s wish list remains one of the best tools to guide friends and family in choosing gifts. Gone are the days when I scribbled down desired birthday and Christmas gifts on paper or bookmarked catalogs with notes on items I wanted. Compiling a list today is as easy as a quick search and a click on the “Add to wish list” button.

This holiday started early with a surprise gift thanks to Erik Tenkar’s 12 Days of OSR Christmas, an annual tradition over at Tenkar’s Tavern blog. Fueled by Tenkar’s own sense of generosity and the participation of many gracious designers creating OSR products, the event offers numerous random drawings for OSR-themed goodies in both print and PDF. I entered a few drawings for interesting items I don’t yet have. I lucked out; Lesser Gnome chose me as a recipient of one of their print adventures, so I chose The First Sentinel. It’s at the top of my modest “to read” OSR pile.

I received several books catering to my genre interests, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Mycroft Holmes, Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra, Janet Wallach’s Desert Queen, and Michael Witwer’s Empire of the Imagination.

But games formed the most enjoyable part of the gifts I received this year. My parents once again demonstrated their urge to encourage my gaming by getting me one of the more substantial entries on my Amazon wishlist, Castles of Mad King Ludwig. We visited two of Ludwig’s castles in Germany on family vacations in the 1980s, so it seemed appropriate. My brother also indulged me in my gaming interests, sending me some small strategy games – Blue Orange’s Japanese-themed Niya and Reiner Knizia’s Age of War dice game – and a Klingon B’rel class ship to add to my Star Trek: Attack Wing fleets.

The Little Guy's homemade Pyramids
of Mars Attack game.
Perhaps the most unique game I received was the Pyramids of Mars Attack game, a custom-made board game my son created (with a great deal of help from Mom) based on one of our favorite “classic” era Doctor Who episodes. The board contains spaces for all the main locations set around the central “pyramid,” the Osiran war missile the robotic mummies build throughout the episode. Small painted clay figures depict the fourth Doctor, Sarah Jane, the possessed archaeologist Scarman, his brother Laurence, Sutekh, and three of the robotic mummies. A small deck of cards and a page of rules round out the components...along with two four-sided dice (not quite pyramid-shaped, but evocative of one). We haven’t sat down to play it yet, but the rules seem to focus on moving around, collecting cards, and being the first to make it to the control room on Mars to free or further imprison Sutekh. I’m not sure how well it will play – the Little Guy needed some coaching from Mom, who isn’t a game designer and only dabbles in gaming – but it might prove an interesting father-son exercise in refining the rules and game play.

Now it’s time to settle down for a long winter, getting back in the groove to work on various writing and game design projects, tackling some household tasks, and finding time to enjoy the new games I received. Although I sometimes buy new games for myself now and them – particularly at the handful of conventions I attend – I expect my new acquisitions to slow until the next gift season for me, my summertime birthday and my shopping spree at nearby Historicon this July. Though I’ll admit I’m tempted to work on some game-design strategies with the Little Guy....

Want to share your opinion? Start a civilized discussion? Share a link to this blog entry on Google+ and tag me (+Peter Schweighofer) to comment.